Steve is sprint and hurdle coach at GB athletics, with a stable of athletes that includes sub-10 second men Adam Gemini and James Dasaolu as well as Paralympic 100m gold medallist Jonny Peacock. Renowned for his scientific approach to training Steve previously focussed on rugby working with the Australian Institute of Sport and is now looking to prepare the next generation of British sprint talent to compete on the world stage.
From a coaching and preparation perspective, what has driven the performance of a record number of GB athletes to run under 10 seconds in recent years?
Historically Great Britain has always had a group of talented Sprinters. The catalyst of the current generation was James Dasasolu’s scintillating 9.91 run at the 2013 British Champs. It had been 14 years since a British Sprinter had gone under 10s and Dasaolu’s run ignited a belief that not only could sub 10 be achieved but that a 9.8 performance was possible. It changed the game for a generation. It gave others belief and from that point British Sprinting went from strength to strength. So the biggest thing that the current generation has is the domestic competition which has proved that it is possible.
From a coaching perspective there has been a real mix of difference experiences which has pushed sprint coaching forwards. There has been an influx of foreign coaches with their expertise which has helped inspired a new generation of coaches. And also there has been the consolidation of experienced older British Coaches who have helped guide and develop the new generation of sprinters. This eclectic mix has really given the event group a wide range of coaching perspectives.nOur science support to these sprinters has become better. An improved focused on the mechanical aspects of the event alongside better physical preparation has set out the parameters need to break 10s.
What do you think we can learn from the Jamaican and US models in pushing our most promising young sprinters to compete for medals on the world stage?
We can learn a lot from these systems. But we have to realise that we are dealing with a different population and environmental constraints. For example, the pyramid is much broader in Jamaica in the USA. So they have more people entering the pyramid at the bottom level. So what generally happens is that they have a filtering process where the best athletes rise to the top. And out of that group of best athletes the ones who are most robust rise further. But in the UK we have a smaller bottom level to the pyramid. So our guys that are making it to the top levels aren’t as well filtered as those coming from the USA and Jamaican system. Which means that we have to be aware that our athletes have not come through such a rigorous filtering process. So compared to their counterparts in Jamaica and USA they are generally not as conditioned, not as race experienced and do not possess the high level of competitive tools.
What are the core principles that underpin your training programmes?
First and foremost building a program that suits the individual on a metabolic, neural, mechanical, mental, and therapeutic level. Secondly building the program the most important element of training which is exposure to high velocity running speeds. This the critical element of progression. It might sound simplistic but the fastest athletes are the ones that are optimising the training sessions at race specific speeds. So the whole training program is built around maximising the training time spent working on high velocity race specific speeds.
What are your ambitions for the next two years and then Tokyo 2020?
At London 2012 we had no finalists in the 100m and 200m events. And no 4 x 100m teams in the final. In fact, we had no Women’s team even competing. In that 4-year period we improved significantly across the sprinting events. And had 2 very young athletes – Adam Gemili & Dina Asher Smith - come 4th and 5th in the 200m event. And our men’s 4 x 100m team reaching the final. And to complete a miraculous turnaround our 4 x 100m women’s team winning a bronze medal. So my ambition is to continue to help to push British Sprint coaching forward so that when Tokyo comes around we can look at more medallists and finalists in the individual events. And at the very least 2 medals in the 4 x 100m.
Which athlete are you most excited about seeing develop in the next few years?
I think Adam Gemili is the most exciting and most well rounded sprinting talent we have had in a number of years. 14 months before the 2016 games he was lying on the track - after falling dipping for a sub 10 performance at Alexander Stadium - with a potential career threatening injury. He overcame that setback. Healed mentally and physically and came within 3 one thousand of an Olympic level. With a clean run into major championships I have no doubt he will win medals in the future.